Jane Espenson should probably lay off the cheese just before going to bed – this is the goriest story we’ve ever had from her. Tricky, clever Buffy (with great Anya lines); that's what we expect from this queen of quips. But skin stripping, blood-lapping goblins? Yeuch. For once, you're probably better off seeing the early evening cut.
Willow's reintegration to the gang needed something clever about it to be pulled off convincingly, and the Espenson duly provided. She also managed to make her distress at abandonment extremely poignant – by making her fear of loneliness tangible, and then making her whimper pathetically.
Favourite moment – Anya’s blasé unconcern at Willow’s predicament. Favourite line – Spike on Xander. "I’m insane, what’s his excuse?"
An above-par episode, even by Jane Espenson's high standards, and one that uses its title's billing well. It's also seasoned with the fizzing repartee which first established Sunnydale on the map.
Willow and her friends are cursed to stay separated, even while they co-exist in space and time. This neat yet accurate metaphor for the somewhat rehabilitated witch's dislocation was handled especially skilfully in the editing suite.
As in Once More With Feeling, unmasking the spell-caster isn't the climax, but the build-up is first intriguing, then gruesome. The demon with a penchant for removing skin really is doing it just for the taste of it ("Which, by the way - gghhhh!")
While Gnarl's taunts may have the air of clichés, when he turns up - eventually - he's an unnerving reflection of what Willow did in Villains. Plaudits too for a superb scene where Spike gets caught between two conversations.
The shame about this episode is that it opens up a powerful new threat to Sunnydale - 'Who has altered space and time?' - which makes us aware of The Bigger Picture... and then cops out by revealing that the mysterious force is actually Willow.
Pity - having it part of the gathering menace that's creeping into town would have been so much stronger. And have involved much less yoga nonsense at the end.
Yes, Alyson Hannigan does great misery. Yes, Sarah Michelle Gellar does great empathy. But we don't need long pointless Gaia-grabbing. Fight your inner demons, don't hug them.